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UNDRIP as “Special” Rights

This “legacy of conquest and colonialism [becomes] implanted into the American mindset, institutions, and legal regime so deeply [] we are blinded to its presence.” [Echo Hawk p105]

This is why after decades of advocacy, the international community adapted the existing human rights framework to apply to the unique circumstances of the indigenous experience. 

Unsurprisingly, criticisms emerged.  Critics questioned why indigenous peoples needed “special” rights separate from those rights already afforded to all humans.  Criticisms were wide-ranging from claims of reverse discrimination against non-indigenous persons to charges that the preferential treatment itself was racist and isolating to indigenous peoples. 

Supporters argue that it was not enough to simply announce people had these rights, but that there existed an affirmative duty to ensure people were achieving these rights.  So, UNDRIP not only list the entitlements, but it includes guidance on how to implement and measure its achievement.

In this assignment, you will explore further the need for UNDRIP.  You will form an opinion regarding whether UNDRIP actually does afford indigenous peoples “special” rights, or if it just acknowledges the same rights already given to others – i.e., native rights are just “human rights” 


1) Review and consider our lessons on the International Bill of Rights which are meant for “all.”

2) Watch this required video: More than a Word

The film explores the history of the slanderous term “redskin,” and delves into cultural stereotypes of Native Americans and their relationship to history. Ultimately, the film argues for representations that honor and celebrate the humanity of Indigenous people.

To see the opposition these protections face, watch either of these videos (you can choose which)

3a) Fighting Indians

On May 16, 2019, the state of Maine made history by passing LD 944 An Act to Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools, the first legislation of its kind in the country. For Maine’s tribal nations, the landmark legislation marked an end to a decades long struggle to educate the public on the harms of Native American mascotry.

FIGHTING INDIANS chronicles the last and most contentious holdout in that struggle, the homogeneously white Skowhegan High School, known for decades as “The Home of the Indians”. This is the story of a small New England community forced to reckon with its identity, its sordid history, and its future relationship with their indigenous neighbors. The film serves as a microcosm for a host of national divisions, as the “mascot debate” exposes centuries old abuses while questioning whether reconciliation is possible.


3b) In Whose Honor? – American Indian Mascots in Sports

The Cleveland Indians. Washington Redskins. Atlanta Braves. What’s wrong with American Indian sports mascots? This moving, award-winning film is the first of its kind to address that subject.

IN WHOSE HONOR? takes a critical look at the long-running practice of “honoring” American Indians as mascots and nicknames in sports. It follows the story of Native American mother Charlene Teters, and her transformation into the leader some are calling the “Rosa Parks of American Indians” as she struggles to protect her cultural symbols and identity. IN WHOSE HONOR? looks at the issues of racism, stereotypes, minority representation and the powerful effects of mass-media imagery, and the extent to which one university will go to defend and justify its mascot.
(4a) Show you understood each video (No. 2, and 3) by describing what it showed about Native oppression.  You simply are being asked to prove you watched it. Avoid generalized summaries (i.e., “they were discriminated against”).  Instead, you only earn points by specifically describing scenes or scenarios from the video.
(4b) Show your understanding by identifying the UNDRIP provisions you believe would protect the Natives from this oppression.  You simply are asked to match the UNDRIP article (as shown in your textbook and the supplemental materials) and briefly describe why you believe it applies.

    (to illustrate: “Under Article X, indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural … which I believe was violated when in the video…)

4c) Based on both documentaries and our course materials, do you believe UNDRIP provides indigenous peoples “special” rights, or instead, does it just ensure they can enjoy the rights we “all” already enjoy.  Use specifically cited references to our course materials to explain what are the rights we “all” enjoy.  And use specific references to the documentary and course materials to compare the rights afforded to indigenous peoples. 
4d) Based on both documentaries and our course materials, what do you believe are the reasons for the United States to be hesitant, if not opposed to, UNDRIP.  Use the example of the sports mascots as the example to frame your opinion.

    Textbook: In the Light of Justice-
        “ABC’s of colonization” Echo-Hawk (pg. 55).

Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRI
Study Note- again, you are graded on your ability to not just list quotes from materials, but to show your ability to understand its significance.  By reviewing these materials, you at least will have a general idea of the framework of human rights.  It will help avoid you later citing an example out of context. 

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